SHREK THE THIRD
Director: Chris Miller
Cast: The voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Justin Timberlake, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Eric Idle
MPAA Rating: (for some crude humor, suggestive content and swashbuckling action)
Running Time: 1:32
Release Date: 5/18/07
Review by Mark Dujsik
Lacking the imaginative innovation of its predecessors, Shrek the Third marks a decided drop in the series. The first two films are a tough act to follow, and here, the laughs are spread out too far, the story feels forced upon its characters, and the whole gimmick of twisting the conventions of fairy tales is starting to show a lack of new, worthwhile ideas. I still have a soft spot for this series, but it's starting to become tired and recycled. What was consistently hilarious is now only generally amusing. What was wicked and diabolical is now only ho-hum. What was a sweet lesson learned is now only a broad message crammed into the finale so that there is a moral. It's disappointing, to be sure. New characters come and do little to add to the community; old characters continue the same-old shtick or get stuck in exhausted, new shtick. With all these new characters, one would assume something different would come of it, but they're all in service of a generic story of a reluctant heir and evil forces trying to take over the kingdom told with progressively less of the cheek we've come to expect.
It all starts off pretty funny as Prince Charming (voice Rupert Everett), disgraced after a failed attempt to steal our hero's wife and subsequently becoming heir to the throne of the kingdom of Far, Far Away, is forced to relive his humiliation night after night in a dinner theater production (adding insult to injury, his dressing room is in the alley). Upon learning that Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) is filling in as king, Charming decides to try to usurp the throne again with the help of other fairy tale villains. Shrek and Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) have a difficult time ruling. After a failed knighting, christening, and royal introduction, they retire for the night, only to be notified of the frog King Harold's (voice of John Cleese) imminent death. On his death bed, Harold names Shrek the new king and, after goading from the unenthusiastic ogre, mentions that a young boy named Arthur is next in line after that. Having no intention of becoming king, Shrek, with sidekicks Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas), sets off to find Arthur and bring him back, but as they're setting off, Fiona reveals she's pregnant.
So what of Arthur, or Artie, as he prefers to be called? Well, he's off at Worcestershire, a high school where he's hated by everyone, including the leader of the jousting team Lancelot and the girl he's always loved Guinevere, or Gwen, as he calls her. Justin Timberlake provides the voice for Artie, and if his character seems solely a plot device, Timberlake's performance doesn't help matters much. Even the animators seem to have fallen in with his dull vocal work, and the result is Artie is more a mild annoyance than a king-in-waiting. Once the movie heads off to Artie's school, it's all downhill. The way the kids talk in a combination of proper English and Valley slang is amusing (the "Just Say Nay" campaign didn't reach the kids smelling incense in a carriage), but the humor drops off steadily from here on out. Soon, the quartet is shipwrecked on an island where they meet Merlin (voice of Eric Idle), Artie's old magic teacher who had a nervous breakdown and now has new age tendencies. There's a long spot here where the laughs are all but missing, and even Shrek and Artie's heart-to-heart about their callous fathers doesn't give us a connection to Artie or a further level of one to Shrek.
Shrek's really dealing with his fears of becoming a father himself, and there's a very funny dream sequence that starts off with him trying to handle a swarm of baby ogres and ends with him naked on graduation day (a Freudian slip within a Freudian dream?). Fiona's storyline back at home isn't much better off. She's left to fend against Charming with the help of her ladies-in-waiting, who include Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Cinderella (whose vocal work is done by "SNL" alums Amy Poehler, Cheri Oteri, and Maya Rudolph and Amy Sedaris, all of whom are left with little to do). In the previous movies, these characters would have been the butt of a few jokes, but here, they're inventing feminism—burning a bra and kicking ass. It's amusing, but still, there's nothing here. Cinderella has a Gollum complex, Snow White likes Led Zeppelin, Sleeping Beauty has narcolepsy, and Rapunzel's got a dark side. With the addition of these new characters, all the characters—new and old—end up on the sidelines. Nothing is developed with those we've come to adore from the previous films, and nothing makes the new ones seem like worthy additions.
There are a lot of small moments and gags that work (Charming's falsetto, the Gingerbread Man's life flashing before his eyes, and a well-placed horn to block out Puss' description of soon-to-be father Shrek come to mind), and they make for a somewhat entertaining experience. Shrek the Third just doesn't live up to its predecessors. Even our old friends are left in the dust, and in one of those "that's the best they could come up with?" moments, Donkey and Puss switch places. Not before Donkey asks Puss how babies are made. That's an odd question coming from a donkey that has apparently mated with a dragon.
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.